Samsung will not be launch its new Galaxy flagship phone, the S8, next month at Mobile World Congress like it usually announces new Galaxy flagships. The launch is delayed until March 29.
The delay did not slow the January leaks, rumors and fake news about the new device, though, including leaked images showing the Galaxy S8 will have a USB C port, an almost bezel-less display and, OMG, a 3.5-inch jack that we may hear about every day in the news during the post-launch week because of the attention the iPhone 7 received for not having one.
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While the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco might question Samsung’s ability to make phones, the company has some of the best designers and engineers capable of creating a unique flagship S8, better than the S7, which will make iPhone users think about switching.
Because the S7 was a refinement of the S6, Samsung will probably change the Galaxy design language. Based on the photos and rumors, the change is an almost bezel-less, edge-to-edge 4K display with rounded edges—like the Galaxy Edge—available in small and large sizes, roughly 5 and 6 inches. Together with the added design changes of moving the fingerprint sensor to the back and removing the electro-mechanical home button, another two-year design language cycle will begin. The new design will also give the S8 a uniquely different and instantly identifiable appearance, boosting the brand and leading to more user upgrades and new users.
The S8’s design will stand out with a change in owners’ behavior. It will have an iris scanner, using the selfie camera to protect the phone from unauthorized use. S8s and their owners will immediately be identified when the owners stare intently at their phones for a fraction of a second to unlock it.
Dock connects Galaxy S8 to display and keyboard
It could establish a new mobile device category with a dock that connects the S8 to a large display and keyboard—a single device that replaces the continuum of uses: phone, tablet and notebook. Programmers will not build and compile software, and spreadsheet jockeys will not build big financial models using this S8 configuration. But this configuration remedies the input/output limitations of the small smartphone screens and clumsy typing compared to a keyboard. For people who want to do more than a smartphone will let them, such as type longer emails, complete forms, update Salesforce and work on modest spreadsheets, the S8 could be a desktop replacement.
Design outweighs performance because year over year, it is hard to make a performance case for an upgrade except for the serious gamers and VR enthusiast corner-cases that need raw power. The benefits of faster hardware is hard to quantify because app developers strive to keep their applications’ performance snappy. Also, it is difficult for users to appreciate a boost in performance unless on-screen app performance improves by more than one-third of a second.
Nevertheless, the S8 is expected to be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835—like the Google Pixel—and to drive graphics processing with an Adreno 540 GPU that will please the two corner-cases. If the past predicts the future, the S8 will be sold in some markets with a Samsung-designed and fabricated Exynos processor of similar capability as the Snapdragon 835.
The phone should also be Google VR Daydream-ready and more than capable of running Daydream and Oculus VR apps. However, the leaked photos disappoint in this category because the S8 has only one camera when at least two cameras, as well as some sensors, are needed for augmented reality (AR). They’re needed so the cameras and sensors can map the three-dimensional space and deliver human-like perception that apps can use to overlay the virtual on reality. Considering the AR-ready Lenovo Phab2 is much larger than the Galaxy 8 Plus, perhaps the camera and sensor assemblies need another silicon spin and refinement to fit into a sleek flagship form factor. Perhaps the S9 will be AR ready.
Same camera as the Galaxy S7
The camera is expected to use the same 12-megapixel camera sensor with larger 1.4 µm pixels as the S7. The S7 scored 88 points on DxOMark’s scale, one point less than the top-ranking Google Pixel and 2 points better than the iPhone 7, both of which use similar sensors. The camera performance could, however, be improved with imaging software using the powerful GPU to improve low-light, back-lit and large landscape shots. Also, as the Pixel proved, optics that previously required a broader and longer focal length can be shrunk into a very small and thin smartphone. And as an integrated electronics manufacturer with a large research organization and a photonics division, Samsung could innovate or even invent new optics, winning it a couple more DxOMark points.
Everything about the S8 will be better than the S7 and will be very competitive to the iPhone 7. The hardware will be updated to match the capabilities of most Android flagships powered by the Snapdragon 835. The better performance will not win as many upgrading and new customers as the new design language and features like the iris scanner.
More speculation and leaks can be expected between now and the March 29 launch when Samsung makes the specifications public.